Flexible Sigmoidoscopy in Washington

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A flexible sigmoidoscopy is an endoscopic exam where a long, thin, flexible pipe, or “scope,” is positioned into the rectum and then progressed into the lower third of the colon. As indicated, the exam is somewhat limited in that not all of the colon will be seen. The scope has a camera and a light on the end, enabling the specialist to inspect the colon's lining closely. A sigmoidoscopy might be performed to:

  • Identify the origin of GI symptoms such as:
    • Loose or watery stools
    • Abnormal x-ray results
    • Abdominal pain
    • Bleeding
  • As a screening tool for polyps and colon cancer.



Our gastroenterology providers routinely perform flexible sigmoidoscopies for Washington patients. If you are experiencing any painful symptoms relating to your GI tract like those listed above, connect with a Washington Gastroenterology near you to learn if a flexible sigmoidoscopy could benefit you.

You will receive instructions from your provider regarding the necessary bowel preparation to get you ready for the exam. Most individuals will be on clear liquids for the entire day before the flexible sigmoidoscopy. There are several different types of laxatives to cleanse the colon. It is essential to follow the instructions given to you by your Washington Gastroenterology specialist. In addition, there will be directions regarding the medicine you are currently taking. In most cases, your medications may be taken as usual. However, individual instruction will sometimes be given, especially to individuals prescribed blood thinners (i.e., Plavix®, Coumadin®, warfarin, aspirin, and anti-inflammatories) and those with diabetes. You will be told not to take anything by mouth after midnight except for medications.

You'll be asked to arrive at the endoscopy center 1 – 1.5 hours ahead of your flexible sigmoidoscopy procedure. This ensures you have adequate time to complete the necessary paperwork and prepare for the procedure. You'll be directed to put on a hospital gown. In most cases, an IV will not be started since, most of the time, sedation is not given for this exam. You might be connected to technology that will allow the provider and staff to monitor your heart rate, blood pressure, pulse, electrocardiogram, breathing, and oxygen level during and following the procedure.

Once in the exam room, you will be instructed to lie on your left on the exam table. The gastroenterologist will perform an exam of your rectum. The sigmoidoscope will then be gently placed into the rectum. The scope will be gently advanced throughout the sigmoid colon. A tiny bit of air is injected through the tube into the colon to help the provider see. Any fluid still in the colon following the preparation can be rinsed and removed through the scope. Depending on the results of the exam, several procedures can be performed during the exam, including biopsies, removal of polyps, and control of bleeding. At the end of the exam, as much air and remaining fluid as possible are removed from the colon via the scope. The test can take approximately 5 – 15 minutes, depending on the findings.

Since sedation is not typically necessary, you will be instructed to put your clothes back on and be discharged from the endoscopy center after the procedure is concluded. If sedation is not needed, you can drive and perform your usual activities. Most individuals can eat and drink regularly after discharge from the endoscopy center; however, personalized directions related to activity, eating, and medications will be given to you before discharge. After the exam, the nurse or specialist will review the exam results with you. You will also be sent home with a written report. You will be informed of any results from biopsies in 7 days or less.

In most cases, a sigmoidoscopy is quite a safe procedure. All in all, complications occur in less than 1% of cases. Typically, complications are minor, however, should a complication occur, it may necessitate hospitalization and surgery. Before the procedure, the staff will discuss a consent form with you. If any questions or concerns arise, these should be brought up to your specialist and discussed before the exam.

Bleeding can occur with biopsies and the removal of polyps. To reiterate, significant bleeding which might involve a blood transfusion or hospitalization is highly unusual. Still, bleeding has been known to happen at the time of the test or anytime within two weeks post-test if a polyp is removed.

Puncture or perforation of the large intestine can occur. This can be noticed at the time of the procedure, or it might not become apparent until a short time later. In the majority of cases, a perforation will require surgery and hospitalization. This is an unusual complication, even when polyps are excised. It is of the utmost importance that the patient consults with the provider's office immediately if symptoms arise after the exam, such as increased pain in the abdomen, bleeding, or fever.

As with any other test, a sigmoidoscopy is not always perfect. There is a slight, accepted chance that tissue abnormalities, including but not limited to cancer and polyps, can be overlooked during the procedure. It is of the utmost importance to maintain check-ups with your providers as advised and make them aware of any new or recurring symptoms. Please consult your Washington Gastroenterology specialist if you have any concerns or questions.

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To a large degree, any alternatives to the procedure will depend on the reason for needing to undergo the sigmoidoscopy in the first place. There are different x-rays that can evaluate the colon, including a barium enema or virtual CT scan. These methods are, however, only diagnostic exams. Mitigation of any detected abnormalities will require sigmoidoscopy, colonoscopy, or surgery. To discover more about flexible sigmoidoscopy in Washington or learn about your options for treating and diagnosing your problem, please connect with our local gastroenterology staff in your community.

A flexible sigmoidoscopy may assist in identifying the cause of problematic gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea, bleeding, and abdominal pain. If you are showing any of these listed symptoms, call an experienced gastroenterology provider as soon as possible. You can locate a local GI specialist through Washington Gastroenterology. Our network aims to provide the best in clinical standards and patient-centric care. To learn more about receiving a flexible sigmoidoscopy in Washington or another endoscopic test, request an appointment with our providers at a location near you today.

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Outstanding performance in every way! Dr. Doherty and staff made this normally "apprehensive" procedure a breeze.

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